Category Archives: Front Page

Water damage to Shack to cause delays in the College’s ownership

Ben Taylor

Viewpoints Editor

The recent spell of cold weather has caused the water pipes at the building that formerly housed the Shack to burst, resulting in a substantial deal of damage to the property and potentially affecting efforts by the college to acquire it.

“I haven’t seen the damage first hand,” said Dean of Students Kurt Holmes, who is one of the people closest to the situation, “but my understanding is that it was a significant amount of water.”

As the Voice reported in December of last year, the College is in the midst of attempting to purchase the property, a process that is still ongoing due to some confusion regarding the legal status of the building.

“The Shack is not yet owned by the College but we do have a pending purchase agreement, which is an agreement to move that direction,” said Holmes. “At a minimum I suspect this will delay our ability to take possession of the facility and thus delay our initial uses.”

While it may delay the process, the occurrence of the water damage will not keep the College from purchasing the property, though the building itself may now be unusable. Evaluations as to the usability of the land have yet to occur.

“This damage is obviously a serious issue, but it doesn’t change the value of the land, and, if the damage can be successfully remediated, the usefulness of the building as well,” said Holmes.

“I don’t think we even know yet what it will take for a professional to remediate the problems, or even if that is possible. That investigation is underway by the current owners.”

As of the Voice’s last report on the Shack in December, the College was not planning to demolish the building.

A number of potential uses for the space have been discussed, but without knowledge of whether it can be remediated, it is unclear how many of these options are still viable moving forward.

College considers options for new science building

Debt financing on the table for the massive project

Maddi O’Neill

News Editor

The forthcoming construction of a new science facility will cost an estimated $40 million, and will be the largest project the College has ever undertaken.

Due to the size of this expense, administrators are considering using some debt financing to pay for the development.

John Hopkins, associate vice president for college relations and marketing, said that the College has begun an “aggressive fund-raising effort,” which administrators hope will cover most, if not all, of the cost of the science facility.

Hopkins added, however, that “this is by far the largest capital project the College has ever undertaken, and it’s possible that we will need to consider supplementing the fund-raising with some debt financing.”

Typically, the College has tried to avoid debt financing as a means of funding projects.

Hopkins said, “That has generally been the case, but over the past decade or so the college has also used modest amounts of debt when necessary to accomplish our goals.”

“Our approach is very conservative, but there are instances where a prudent amount debt financing makes good financial sense,” he said.

The College’s conservative approach to financing in the past has led to what Professor John Rudisill describes as “a bond rating that is as good as it gets.”  Rudisill, sharing his perspective as a professor, explained that this means that the College has access to debt financing at very low interest rates.

“Not advancing and building things to maintain our status as a premier institution seems to be unwise given that [we] could do it at a faster clip with low interest,” said Rudisill. “Most of the administration recognizes that that makes fiscal sense.”

With regard to the College’s annual budget, Hopkins said that students should not feel any major changes as a result of the project. The possibility of debt financing is not expected to make a significant dent.

Referring specifically to the expected maintenance costs of the science facility, Associate Vice President for Facilities and Auxiliaries Jackie Middleton said that the College “will accommodate that additional expense in our financial planning.”

Although specifics are still undecided, Middleton explained that the College will request proposals from a number of architectural firms which are interested in constructing the science facility.

“We anticipate beginning the design process in January 2015, and hope to break ground 18 months later, in June 2016,” she said.

“Construction will likely take another 18 months, so the soonest the new facility would be ready to come online would be sometime in 2018.”

Administrators do not anticipate any interruptions to classes during the construction process.

Curriculum changes in the sciences are also expected to accompany this project. Provost Carolyn Newton explained that members of the College’s faculty have been planning ways to adapt science education for several years.

Their input will be taken into account in the planning of the new science facility. “Faculty are excited about building a curriculum for the future, a future that we know will be ever more interdisciplinary and collaborative,” Newton said.

Currently, Newton expects that the completed facility will house the biology, biochemistry, molecular biology, neuroscience and environmental studies departments.

Reusable to-go boxes coming soon

Greenhouse working with Dining Services to implement plan next semester

Wyatt Smith

News Editor

The student group Greenhouse is working with Wooster’s Dining Services to implement a reusable to-go box program next semester.

“The change has not yet been approved,” clarified Chuck Wagers, director of Campus Dining and Conference Services, “although the motivation for change is sensible. … There needs to be education and buy-in from the student population and administration before the decision is made to implement this new system.”

Under the new system, students will receive a token which can be exchanged for a plastic to-go box when entering dining halls. Specialized vending machines will trade a dirty to-go box for another token.

Unlike the current disposable boxes, the reusable containers will have multiple sections to keep food separate, although they will not come with a detached cup. The new boxes will likely be larger than the present ones.

If students lose their token or to-go box, they must pay a fee to receive a new token.

To make the plan financially viable, the reusable boxes would completely replace their disposable counterparts. If prices do not change, the program will pay for itself in three years.

“I think it’s a great thing,” said Caroline Kamen ’16, one of the students who first proposed the idea, “because it’s another step towards having a sustainable future and towards people consciously thinking about what they’ve used in the past and how it’s wasteful.”

The College currently goes through over 100,000 disposable boxes annually.

“Ideally, these containers would go to our compost facility once used,” said Wagers. “In reality, most to-go containers end up in a trash can instead of a compost container. Either way, our current to-go containers are disposable and create waste, both physical waste and financial waste.”

“I’m always looking to eliminate things that are building up in our waste stream,” said Sb Loder, the College’s sustainability coordinator. “We should just find ways around them.”

A relatively new phenomenon, reusable to-go boxes are already available at a handful of colleges, including Oberlin College, Washington & Jefferson College, Boston University and Williams College.

Wooster’s move toward reusable to-go containers started over a year ago, when Kamen and Lauren Swank ’16 researched the idea for Greenhouse, Wooster’s largest environmental student group. Working with Loder, the two students pitched their idea to Dining Services in the fall of 2012.

Due to peculiarities in Ohio’s health code, Kamen and Swank’s plan had to be approved by the state government, a process that took from early 2013 until last June.

In the fall of 2013, Loder, Greenhouse and Dining Services began working on the specifics, such as when to implement the switch as well as the number and location of the vending machines. This past fall also saw the addition of Annette Hilton ’17 to the cause, who replaced Swank after she transferred to a different school.

The plan’s designers hope to introduce the reusable containers at the beginning of the 2014-15 school year, both to ease the transition and to properly incorporate the start-up cost in Dining Service’s budget.

Kamen, Hilton and Loder are presently working to inform the campus about the switch. Greenhouse hopes to table in Lowry and hold public meetings to address student questions and concerns.

SGA holds elections

New president Josh Foerst ’15 says SGA will focus on budget, presence on campus

Wyatt Smith

News Editor

Last week, Wooster’s Student Government Association (SGA) held its annual elections. Josh Foerst ’15 was elected SGA president, replacing Molly McCartt ’14.

Vice President Kelsey Schreck ’15, Secretary Kristina Schiavone ’15 and Treasurer DJ Sullivan ’15 round out SGA’s newly elected Executive Board. Senators — five from each class and five at-large seats — were also elected. All terms run for one calendar year.

This year’s election was slightly more competitive than last year’s, when no one ran opposed.

“Every year since 2011, there has been a slight, steady increase in the amount of people that run,” explained McCartt. “This year we had competition in the Class of 2017 with seven people running for five seats, and competition for every cabinet position except President. While this is good, I would really love to have even more competition for future SGA elections. … The more competition, the more SGA can solidify itself as a true representation of the student body, which I think is something we are moving towards.”

In order to become a candidate in an SGA election, students must have submitted petitions with at least 40 signatures — 65 for Executive Board.

Foerst predicts that the student groups’ budget and SGA’s presence on campus will be central issues during his term as president.

“Right now, we’re looking at improving on the budget approval process,” he said. “Last year, things got a little hectic … [and] there were a few groups that were extremely upset with their budgets. … We are going to improve on the process and make sure that we don’t repeat any of our mistakes.”

Foerst also highlighted the importance of continuing improvements to the airport shuttle and summer storage programs.

“There’s issues that don’t really go away,” Jordan McNickle ’14, former SGA vice president, added. “We find that we end up discussing parking and things like that pretty much on a year-to-year basis, but there’s other things that you can’t really expect.”

McNickle also hopes that the involvement of Schreck — his replacement as vice president — who is in student green groups, such as Greenhouse, signals a greater commitment on the part of SGA towards environmental initiatives.

SGA collected election results via an online survey. Standing senators tabled in Lowry and posted links to the poll on Facebook to encourage participation.

Foerst, who had previously been chair of the PR Committee, is the first SGA president in three years not involved in Greek life, although he downplays the importance of this discontinuity.

“The fact that [former presidents] were involved in Greek Life really had nothing to do with their respective presidencies,” Foerst said. “They were all extremely involved in student groups just as I am. The only difference is that I did not find a home in Greek Life whereas they did.”

SGA seeks to be Wooster’s principal student advocacy group, liaising with the administration on behalf of the student body. SGA primarily interacts with the administration through their adviser, Dean of Students Kurt Holmes, who attends most SGA meetings. Senators also influence policy through membership in other organizations and committees, as well as personal meetings with administrators. SGA also has the unique privilege of sitting in on trustee meetings.

The entire SGA holds a weekly general meeting. Additionally, each senator must sit on committees, which also meet weekly. Current committees include academic affairs, student services, student advocacy and PR.

“We get a lot of people who sometimes feel that they’re disconnected from SGA,” said McNickle. “But we have open meetings, so people are more than welcome to come. Ideally, we want to know what the students want, or what they care about, because that’s our job.”

The date and time for this semester’s SGA meetings have not yet been decided.

Prof. Noriega recognized for innovation

Mariah Joyce

Chief Copy Editor

Assistant Professor of Theater and Dance Jimmy A. Noriega has recently been named the recipient of the Association for Theater in Higher Education’s (ATHE) Prize for Innovative Teaching. The award was presented at the Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival (KCACTF) in early January.

Noriega has worked to provide unconventional learning opportunities for his students both inside and outside of the classroom. In addition to trips he has taken with his students to Mexico City and Lima, Peru, Noriega said he makes a point “to use [his] connections with Latin American and Latina/o theatre artists to bring guests to campus to work directly or via Skype with [his] students.”

During the summer of 2012, Noriega traveled to Peru for five weeks with six of his students. While there, students were able to observe how theatre professionals conduct research outside of the classroom. Noriega commented, “I wanted our experience in Peru to be as academically rigorous and structured as I could to demonstrate to the students how work in the classroom and outside could be unified to create the best learning experience for all.” The group took a hands-on approach, he explained,  “conducting … workshops and laboratory exercises in parks, streets, and parking lots. We also set one important goal for ourselves: to devise and perform our own theatre piece, based on our experiences and lessons.”

This original piece, Encuentro: Peru!!, was produced and directed by Noriega, and ultimately performed at four venues in Peru, including the Metropolitan Museum of Lima — one of the largest museums in the capital. The play was so successful that the group was then invited to perform it at the UNESCO/International Theatre Institute World Festival of Theatre Schools, which was held in Romania from Sep. 2-11, 2012. Noriega and his students formed the official US delegation, and were one of 19 groups from around the world. Furthermore, Noriega was chosen as one of five professors to teach a master class for all festival participants. Noriega based the master class on The Physical Text course he teaches at Wooster, “as a way of showing my students the ways our own lessons can move beyond borders and work with other theatre artists around the world.”

Noriega’s most recent project (in collaboration with his students) is the play Women of Ciudad Juárez, which he will be directing at nine different universities this spring. In preparation for this production, he traveled to Mexico City with one of his IS students in order to interview artists who work as in small traveling theatre companies in Latin America.

Ultimately, Noriega said one of his main accomplishments has been “expanding my students’ understanding of the ways that theatre and performance can create positive social change in the world … For me, being in the theatre can’t just be about fame and ego — the people I work with in Latin America have used their art to make their communities better places, and often times this was a very risky and dangerous thing for them to do.”

Greek move to Bissman confirmed

Ian Benson

Editor-In-Chief

After four years of living in campus houses, The College of Wooster Greek organizations will be returning to Bissman Hall in the fall of 2014. The dorm housed the Greeks from its construction in 1968 until they were moved into houses in 2010.

Both the community itself and the administration prompted the move. Part of the original rationale for placing the Greeks in houses was that they were struggling to fill Bissman to capacity, and the administration felt the space could be better used as first-year housing. With two new Greek groups and an overall increase in size, Galpin feels that it will be easier for the building to be filled.

The move is also meant to improve town-gown relations, particularly along College Avenue and Spink Street. While relations are good most days, weekends have caused friction between the two. “Six out of seven days of the week, the relationship is fine,” Dean of Students Kurt Holmes said. “But when it’s the weekend and it’s warm, we get complaints all night.” By moving the Greeks back to Bissman, the administration hopes to minimize the number of complaints from the surrounding neighborhood.

Two new Greek groups (Kappa Epsilon Zeta and Eta Pi) have started since the move from Bissman, and as it currently stands, all of the groups will have some stake in the building. Some groups might only have one floor of one section if only a small number express interest in living in Bissman, but all are a part of the discussion going forward.

Still, not all groups are excited, having become attached to the houses that they have lived in for the last four years. “Some groups are excited about the move back, while others are more hesitant, preferring the system in place,” Holmes said.

Renovations are currently planned to make the building more conducive to the community, while also updating and improving the space as a whole. The rooms will remain predominantly doubles, though the administration is willing to negotiate so that certain students, such as the officers, can have singles. “The long term goal, within three to five years, is to eventually wean down to singles,” Holmes said.

There was also discussion about having both Armington and Bissman house the Greeks, but it was decided that only Bissman would make the transition for at least the first year.

As for the houses that will be vacated by the Greeks, the plan is to fold them into the existing Wooster Volunteer Network Program Houses. The increase in houses available will allow for more groups to be approved and a greater commitment to the program.

Originally some of the houses were used as first-year programs, with certain First Year Seminars all living together. This program was disbanded when the Greeks moved into the houses and it will not be resurrected when they move out. “Places that have done a first-year living program committed to it fully and tailored their first-year experience around that,” Holmes said. “We didn’t, and there were problems because of that, so we won’t be bringing it back.”

Andrews Hall is currently planned to house first-years and the new Gault Schoolhouse will be used to assuage the housing woes that Res Life has faced in recent years.

In other housing news, there has been preliminary discussion about permanently closing down Holden Annex. With the addition of the school house, it would be possible to close down the dorm while still having space for every student, though it does not allow for excess rooms in case of overflow. The administration and Board of Trustees are currently exploring options.